Tuesday 28th April 2015
Mac Voice, the magazine for Macmillan professionals: Spring 2015
Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer for England, speaks to Mac Voice about her role as a Macmillan trustee
What is your view of Macmillan?
I see Macmillan as a large organisation that has significant reach across the UK and which helps so many people. When I talk with people across the country, and even when I go into shops or to different environments, I see the Macmillan brand, people fundraising and the positive effect that Macmillan has. It is one of the biggest charitable brands.
I have spoken with many people who have either had opportunities to access services or support, or who have been able to call the Macmillan Support Line for advice. I think that Macmillan is a fantastic organisation and one that is very proactive, thinks longer term and sets high standards.
What inspired you to become a Macmillan trustee?
My main motivation for becoming a Macmillan trustee stemmed from personal experiences of the care Macmillan provides. I had the support of a Macmillan nurse when my husband Chris had cancer and was terminally ill. The nurse helped us both so much, and after that I felt committed to supporting Macmillan when it became feasible for me to be involved in its work.
There were also other reasons why I was inspired to become a Macmillan trustee. I am a trustee for a smaller charity, which I enjoy, and working with Macmillan was a chance to do more and reach more people. The timing was also right as I am based in London much of the time now, which is where the Board of Trustees meets.
What does being a trustee involve?
As a trustee, I have a responsibility, along with the other trustees and the chairman, of ensuring that Macmillan delivers. Delivering means making best use of the funds available; meeting the requirements of our charitable status; and deciding about the future direction of the charity, so that we can continue to help more people. As trustees, we also have a responsibility for holding staff executives to account.
The Board includes people with a range of backgrounds and skills. We have trustees who are clinicians and those who come from business. There is a significant richness of experience that adds to decision-making and discussions about the future of an organisation that’s as big as Macmillan. When you have a charity that so many people are donating money towards, we have a duty to ensure that money is well spent, expenditure is justified, and that funding is used for the purpose for which it’s intended, which is to improve the lives of people affected by cancer.
This is the beginning of my time as a Macmillan trustee. I intend to give as much time as I can over the coming years and I am just so pleased that I was successful when I applied to become a trustee. It is something I have wanted to do for a long time.
Do your NHS and Macmillan trustee roles fit well together?
There is a good fit between my job as Chief Nursing Officer and my unpaid position as a Macmillan trustee. The roles overlap in some areas, but there are also differences. As Chief Nursing Officer I am an executive director of NHS England. Being a trustee means stepping back from operational detail. I have worked together with Macmillan as part of my NHS role. As a Director of Nursing for the NHS, I was fortunate to have some Macmillan funding, which meant we were able to employ cancer nurses who had specific interests in particular fields. As I have continued in other NHS roles, I have worked with Macmillan in terms of improving patient experience. My national Patient Experience team have been involved in Macmillan’s work in this area.
What are your hopes for Macmillan’s future?
I think it will be important to concentrate on what Macmillan does well, and to consider how we can improve that. I think we need to continue to make progress, to use every available opportunity to move forward and do that in a constructive way. One of the best aspects of Macmillan is that it has continued to grow and improve. And for me, being part of that in the future is going to be very exciting.
Do you have a message for Macmillan professionals?
I would say thank you – for what you do and for your commitment. I am really looking forward to the opportunity of working with Macmillan and Macmillan professionals to think about how we can continue to go further and help more people.
For me personally, a quote from the American poet and writer Maya Angelou rings true for a lot of the support Macmillan professionals provide. She said: ‘People will forget what you did, they will forget what you say, but they will never forget the way you made them feel’. I couldn’t tell you now what the Macmillan nurse said to me or to Chris when she sat on our sofa and helped us through a really traumatic time, but I know how she made me feel, and I can still remember how she made me feel, and that was comforted, supported and valued. Macmillan made a big difference to me and my husband, and it continues to improve the lives of many other people.